When you hear the word “call center” the first image that pops into your mind is an agent waiting for the phone to ring. Such a scenario might have been a reality for most agents in the industry’s heyday. However, thanks to technological advancements, they have come a long way since then.

What is Average Handle Time?

One of those advancements is operational indicators like Average Handle Time (AHT). As the name implies, AHT is the amount of time that a call center agent spends on taking or processing a call. The process involves several key components in order to work efficiently. For example, it includes total talk time, After Call Work Time (ACW) and Hold Time.

Why is it Important?

Average Handle Time is a record of all the calls that are processed by a call center, over a specific period of time. Like every business, call centers have to constantly evolve in order to expand, something that can be accomplished by maximizing efficiency. Such goals call for the pertinent measures that can make them possible. This is also why AHT, ASA (Average Speed of Answer), Occupancy Rate and Service Levels are staple operational functions in all call centers.

However, it is AHT that takes precedence over all operational indicators and for good reason. Service Level, operating budgets and employee requirements all depend on it. For instance, the lower a company’s AHT is, the fewer employees it will require. This is not to mention how little you would have to spend on operational expenses.

Sadly, there are some factors that can throw a wrench in the works, especially when it comes to AHT. Some of them are as follows:

1. Efficiency and Agent Behavior

If you have ever worked in (or own) a call center, you might have realized how much time agents spend on calls. In fact, you might also have noticed certain disparities in the AHT of multiple agents. In other words, you need to learn what causes such a disparity in the first place. In order to determine what affects an agent’s AHT you would need to keep the following questions in mind –

· Do the agents with reduced AHT use different tools than the rest?

· Do they differ in terms of tenure or the level of training that they received?

· Have the agents with better AHT managed to come up with better processes that help them streamline their tasks better?

Besides that, management also needs to determine whether certain agents skip some steps in order to save time. For instance, if an agent fails to process interactions with customers according to company guidelines, it will take him/her more time to process calls successfully. A well regulated AHT has an enormous impact on customer service. Such an unprofessional attitude is bound to affect customer satisfaction (or lack of) sooner or later.

2. System Usability

This goes without saying. Call centers depend on software to regulate operations. Needless to say, the more user-friendly the system is the more productive the agents will be. A well designed system will help call center agents speed through tasks that usually take them a lot of time or regulate tasks that have a tendency to extend call time unnecessarily.

For example, an automated process can help employees access multiple systems for the information that they need, like product delivery confirmations and account balances. Other than that, agents can also input key customer info into multiple systems at once as well as record call details, process forms and update account information to name a few.

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